Train your mind to find the magic in small, everyday things

Hi Lama, 

I always feel bored. I get up late and just roam around. I play a lot of snooker and video games. I used to enjoy writing when I was in college, but now I don’t do anything. I feel that my life is empty. Help!         

ST, Thimphu

Actually, this is a common problem these days, and I often hear the youth say that they are bored. In reality, the reason for this sense of emptiness is a lack of ability to find the magic in the things around them.

Basically, when we are unable to be inspired by simple things, we crave excitement and entertainment. As a result, we hang out in snooker halls, endlessly play video games and spend hours reading about other people’s lives on Facebook. However, these activities merely act as a temporary distraction. Soon we are bored again, causing us to seek more intense stimulation. Drug and other addictions all stem from this need to distract the mind and be entertained.

I’m not saying that we should not play video games etc. It is just that we should not rely on them as a means to avoid boredom. Instead, it would be more effective to train our minds to find the magic in small, everyday things.

As you mentioned that you enjoy writing, perhaps you could try composing Japanese-style poems called haiku as a means to help you find this magic.

Basically, when our minds are aware of the present moment, the prejudices that cloud our experiences are calmed and we begin to discover the unrefined splendour in common, everyday things. This is exactly the kind of awareness that is needed to compose a good poem, and so in this way the habit of writing haiku functions as a reminder to bring our minds back to the present moment.

Slowly, as we become accustomed to doing this, our need to seek entertainment decreases and we are inspired by simple, everyday experiences. Take drinking a cup of coffee as an example. Generally, we just slop the coffee into a cup and pour it down our throats while our minds are somewhere else. In contrast, when we are mindful we enjoy the fragrance of the coffee. We are also aware of the atmosphere of our surroundings and fully savour the taste of the drink. At the same time, we realize that the coffee will soon be finished, and this insight should serve as a timely reminder that all things will end and that nothing in the universe can ultimately bring us lasting satisfaction. This is something all of us should bear in mind.

How to compose a haiku? Well, unlike in English poetry, the words in a haiku poem do not need to rhyme, but instead the emphasis is on capturing the uniqueness of everyday experiences and expressing them in three brief lines of verse.  A good haiku is direct and raw, not philosophical and dry.

Here are a few examples of haiku. The first is traditional. The latter three are modern.

The wind in the pines

Morning and evening

Carries the sound of the temple bell 

The class ends

The chattering dies away

Only the smell of socks remains

She has no home but

Her nails are always polished,

Waiting for the bus

Dense fog

I write your name

On the airport window

So, next time you are hurrying to a snooker hall, slow down and bring your mind back to the present moment. You may notice a weed in the gutter caught in the evening sun or maybe the sound of rain hitting the ground will draw your attention. Suddenly, you begin to find the magic in the moment – the beauty in the ordinary.

If you have a pen and paper write down your feelings in the form of a haiku. As a result of living in the moment, you may become so inspired that you decide not to go to the snooker hall after all. Otherwise, you may still go, but now your aim will not be to escape boredom, but to fully enjoy the experience of the game.

If you prefer, you can write an article instead of a poem. However, in order for it to help us find the magic in everyday things, it should be written in the same spirit as a haiku. As an example of this kind of article, here is one I wrote about a day in Kolkata. It is seriously not well written, but at least it will give you some idea of the concept:

www.facebook.com/drukairmagazine/posts/591988641001523″

www.facebook.com/drukairmagazine/posts/591988641001523

For more information on haiku, check out this guide:

www.wikihow.com/Write-a-Haiku-Poem

Shenphen Zangpo was born in Swansea, UK, but spent more than 28 years practicing and studying Buddhism in Taiwan and Japan. Currently, he works with the youth and substance abusers in Bhutan, teaching meditation and organising drug outreach programmes.

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